“Opening a community café in the countryside is a political commitment”

Tell us a little about your background.

I grew up in a very small village south of Bergerac and I have always kept ties to the sector. I went to middle school in Eymet and high school in Bordeaux for visual arts. The cinema bug was itching, so I started making films with friends and, one day, I followed a production to Paris. I worked there as assistant director and then director until 2007. For example, I participated in episodes of series like “Louis la Brocante”. Then I co-created Éditions Fei, and I was finally able to write the stories I wanted to tell. I wrote the comic series “Juge Bao”, which did very well, and “The Walk of Yaya”, the adaptation of which into an animated film should be released in 2026.

How was the Friends of the Wheelbarrow project born?

We first wanted to launch a festival, called “The 24 Hours of the Wheelbarrow”: a whole day of concerts, round tables, meetings with writers, sporting events, etc. But we were caught up by the Covid crisis. Then, we wanted to create a circuit with a truck that would offer coffee and used books. It took a lot of time and money. Especially since in the meantime, we had found this place and a fire destroyed the spare parts of the truck. So, we postponed the traveling project until later to focus on the location.

How did you find this site, in Saint-Aubin-de-Lanquais?

Thanks to the cantonal departmental councilor and the mayor, who agreed to rent us the old school, adjacent to the town hall, for a very modest sum. In return, we spent a good year restoring everything, building the bar, etc.


The association operates thanks to the commitment of around twenty volunteers and one employee on a subsidized contract.

Thomas Jonckeau

Your association has quickly become essential in the local cultural landscape. Tell us.

We organize concerts, meetings and conferences with artists, writers, comic book authors… We received a paleontologist, for a conference on the bear, or even the former sub-prefect, who came to talk about the history of witchcraft in the region. We have a partnership with the Bergerac court, which allowed us to receive the prosecutor and a lawyer, and to go to the courthouse to host a conference by Judge Van Ruymbeke. We received farmers’ associations, plastic arts workshops, etc. It has to be a place for everyone to live. We also deposit bread for a peasant baker, baskets of vegetables for market gardeners, beer for a local brewery, sometimes wine for wine growers. Without forgetting the bookstore, with nearly 200 new references, thanks to a partnership with two bookstores, and also second-hand books.

What does the association live from?

Mainly recipes from refreshments and restaurants. We manage to balance without depending too much on subsidies, even if the Department and the Region helped us a lot at the start. It’s up to us to maintain a form of autonomy as much as possible. Being on a subsidy drip doesn’t interest me.


The bookstore offers new and used books.

Thomas Jonckeau

Is it important for these small villages?

When I was a kid, every village had a café, a small shop and a school. In the 90s, it became dormitory communities. Our goal is to provide a meeting place for residents. From a political point of view, anything that is not done to maintain the associative fabric in the villages is preparing for a social catastrophe. This adds a social desert to the medical desert. Opening a community café is a political commitment. It’s about taking life together head-on. If we don’t do it, who will? In terms of cultural offerings, there is a gulf between what is offered in large cities and the countryside. There aren’t many places like this, which can offer both lyrical singing and musette dancing.

What plans do you have for the future?

Invite new people to join us, because all this requires a lot of work from our small team of around twenty volunteers. Why not recruit, if the budget allows it, knowing that we already have an employee in supported employment. Then, the town hall will move, this should allow us to create an additional room dedicated to catering. We are also going to arrange the exteriors to better occupy the space, because the site is very pleasant, particularly for families with children, because everything is enclosed.

Openings

The associative café is open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., as well as on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (sometimes with an interruption of 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.).

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